The large village of Banwell lies at c.8m above sea-level at the foot of the N slope of the W end of the Mendip Hills, adjacent to a gap utilised by a road undoubtedly ancient and now represented by the A371 connecting Weston with
Wells and Shepton Mallet via the towns strung along the S scar of the Mendips (the nearest and most important being Axbridge). Banwell Hill to the SW rises to a height of 118m; Banwell Plain to the SE to 96m: each hill being only 1km away from the village, it is somewhat starved of the sun. Its altitude is not high enough for it to enjoy a commanding prospect over the alluvium towards the North Moors and the limestone ridge of Milton Hill and Worlebury Hill. Nevertheless, it seems to have been the administrative centre of the area in the Middle Ages, both
ecclesiastical and secular (v. Aston & Costen). These days, its business for the cursory visitor appears dominated by the constant main road traffic following the official route between the M5 and Bristol Airport; new building seems to be spreading the village westwards towards Weston-super-Mare, using the land of the now decommissioned airfield.
As suggested in the general comments on the county of North Somerset, communications are easy here. Banwell is only 8.5-9.0 kms from Weston via the A371, 2kms from the A38 and less than 20kms from Bristol via that trunk road. The M5 runs a mere 2kms W of the village and is accessible at the junction with the A370 5kms N. When railways were more important for local journeys, Banwell had a station (2kms E) on the branch coming off the main line at Yatton to the N and running through the gap in the hills S of Winscombe round S of the Mendips to Wells and beyond.
Geologically, Banwell village lies mostly above the nearby alluvium on Mercia Mudstone and below limestone rock.
The church is at the old village centre (although the village itself has expanded largely westwards). It is largely of the 15thc and consists of a W tower, nave with N and S aisles and S porch, and chancel. The church was restored twice in the 19thc. The only Romanesque feature is the font.
According to the Domesday Survey, Banwell was held by the Bishop of Wells in 1086, and by Earl Harold before 1066. It was assessed at 30 hides, of which 6 hides were in lordship. The inhabitants were 5 slaves, 24 villagers and 12 smallholders with 18 ploughs & 7 hides. In addition to the ploughland there were 100 acres of meadow; pasture 1 league in length and width; and woodland 2½ leagues in length and width. Of the land of this manor, Serlo of Burcy held 3 hides from the Bishop, Ralph Crooked Hands 5½ hides, Roghard 5½ hides, Fastrad 1 hide, Bofa 1 hide, Alfwy son of Banna 1 hide. No church was recorded, but there were 3 mills.
In the mid 12th century Bishop Robert of Bath granted the rectory to Bruton Priory, and in about 1220 the Priory’s muniments supply the name of the first known vicar: Robert, son of William the Skinner of Bristol.
In white local limestone, the font is situated centrally at the W end of the nave, enjoying very generous ambient space. Ignoring the later decoration, its simple but well-balanced design comprises a circular plinth with top chamfer, a simple circular base with its top moulded into a neat shallow roll curving into a collar for the plain cylindrical stem topped by a more prominent roll under the basin-shaped bowl.
The latter is equipped with good lead; repairs to the rim may be seen at N and SE. The bowl was carved with quatrefoils and plants in the 15thc or 16thc.
|Bowl rim thickness (including 0.035m lead)||0.105m|
|Circumference of base||1.86m|
|Circumference of plinth||2.34m|
|Circumference of stem||1.38m|
|Ext. diameter of bowl||0.755m|
|Height of base||0.155m|
|Height of bowl (including top band)||0.46m|
|Height of plinth||0.155m|
|Height of stem + top roll||0.280m|
|Int. diameter of bowl||0.54m|
D. Bromwich, Church Guide, 1976, passim.
EH, English Heritage Listed Building 33352.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol, Harmondsworth 1958, 84.